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What is “Corked” Wine?

Question from Bill: Hi! What is corked wine?

Reply: Hi, Bill. Thanks for writing! With the popularity of plastic corks and screw caps you might well think that when someone says “This wine is corked” it means that it has a real cork in it! But, no…

When the wine is “corked” it means that it’s got a dank, moldy aroma like a stack of wet newspapers or a damp basement. Yuck! Fortunately, it’s not harmful. Unfortunately, it stinks! At low levels it dulls the fruit character. At high levels it’s extremely offensive! And, human detection is measured in the parts per trillion – this is potent stuff! If you hear a reference to “cork taint”, its the same thing.

There are other sources, but the most common reason for this off character is a compound called 2,4,6 tricholoranisole (TCA for short). We now know that TCA can come from other wooden surfaces (natural cork is bark of the cork-oak tree)  like a barrel or a picking box. Wineries have been known to remodel if they have any wooden surfaces in the actual production area because if you get the right naturally-occurring airborne fungi together with chlorine (very common in wineries; in the past they used chlorine to purify natural cork, but that’s been replaced by hydrogen peroxide) it’s a nice recipe for producing TCA. Continue reading

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